If A Patient Dies During Treatment, And Police lodge an FIR Against the Doctor Under Section 302 (Murder), Then the Policemen Must Face Abetment to Suicide Charge: SC

The unfortunate suicide of a lady gynaecologist Dr. Archana Sharma in Dausa, Rajasthan, has shocked the medical fraternity and right-thinking people who believe in a humanistic approach. The emotional suicide note that Dr. Archana Sharma left behind can move anybody to tears.

The Case in Details:

The pregnant woman Asha Bairwa was brought to Anand hospital, Lalsot, Dausa, in a critical condition after two other hospitals declined to treat her. Dr. Archana Sharma tried her best to ensure that Asha could give birth to the child, and she did, but in the process, she started bleeding excessively. It was a case of postpartum haemorrhage. Dr. Archana Sharma had earlier arranged the birth of twins for Asha through Caesarean section. This time, the new-born survived, but Asha succumbed due to excessive bleeding.

The patient’s husband, Laluram Bairwa, a labourer, and her relatives first took the body to their village. Still, under pressure from local political leaders, they came back with the body and staged a demonstration outside the hospital, demanding the doctor’s arrest. In her defence, Dr. Archana Sharm explained to police officers about the line of treatment and showed them the medical file. 

But as the protest intensified, police registered an FIR against the doctor couple under Section 302 (murder) based on the husband’s complaint. Later, Laluram Bairwa said that somebody had given him a written complaint, which he had signed in anger without reading it.

But as the protest intensified, police, based on the husband’s complaint, registered an FIR on 28 March against the doctor couple under IPC sections 299 (murder) and 304A (causing death by negligence) at Lalsot police station. The FIR was based on a complaint filed by Asha’s husband, Laluram Bairwa. However, he later claimed that he did not write the complaint and was only made to sign it.

The Tragic Event and Mental Torture 

“What will happen if I land in jail…they will send me to jail” — Dr Archana Sharma, a gold medallist in obstetrics and gynaecology, kept repeating these words on the morning of 29 March, after she read a local newspaper snippet that said she and her husband had been booked for murder over the death of a woman post-childbirth at their hospital in Rajasthan’s Dausa district.

Speaking to media, her brother Pawan Sharma recalled consoling her, saying: “You are not going to jail. Even if you go, we will also go.”

Dr. Archana Sharma was a gold medallist and a gynaecologist of repute. She was a mother of two, but she lost all hopes after the FIR with a murder charge was filed against her.

Later that day, the 40-year-old doctor’s body was found hanging in her children’s room. She left behind an 11-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl.

A note, purportedly written by Archana, was also found. The suicide note that she left behind speaks volumes about the mental turmoil that a doctor had to go through. In her suicide note, she wrote: “I love my husband and children very much. Please do not harass my husband and children after my death. I did not commit any mistakes and did not kill anyone. My death will prove my innocence. PPH (postpartum hemorrhage) is a severe complication. DON’T HARASS INNOCENT DOCTORS, please. Suneet, I love you, don’t let my kids feel their mother’s absence”.

Dr. Archana Sharma and her husband, Dr. Suneet Upadhyay, ran Anand hospital. Speaking to India TV, Dr. Suneet Upadhyay questioned how police could fire a murder FIR against any doctor. He said a doctor could be charged with medical negligence but not murder. He said the Supreme Court had already ruled that no doctors can be charged with murder if a patient dies during treatment.

Sorrow And Grieve in The Society 

After Dr. Archana Sharma committed suicide, doctors across Rajasthan, under the aegis of the Indian Medical Association, went to the streets and gave a 24-hour bandh call demanding the arrest of those guilty of Dr. Archana Sharma’s suicide. In a letter to Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, the Federation of Resident Doctors Associations (FORDA) demanded a full probe into the circumstances that led to the filing of FIR and the doctor’s suicide.

On Wednesday, doctors in AIIMS and all other major hospitals in India worked wearing black bands on their arms. Doctors said, whatever happened to Dr. Archana Sharma is a black blot on the face of society. They told doctors save the lives of thousands of people daily, but they cannot be charged of murder if a patient dies during treatment.

Initiative By Authorities to Punish the Culprits 

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted: “The incident of Dr. Archana Sharma’s suicide in Dausa is unfortunate. We give the status of God to all doctors. Every doctor tries their best to save the life of patients. It is not justified to accuse the doctor when any unfortunate incident occurs. If doctors are intimidated like this, then how will they be able to work with confidence? The matter is being investigated seriously, and those guilty will not be spared.”

The chief minister directed the divisional commissioner Dinesh Kumar Yadav to carry out an administrative inquiry and action against those who abetted the suicide. The SP of Dausa Anil Kumar has been transferred, and the SHO of Lalsot police station Ankesh Kumar has been suspended. Gehlot has set up a committee of senior officials headed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to suggest preventing the recurrence of such incidents. A local BJP leader Jitendra Gothwal and another person Ram Manohar have been arrested on the charge of abetment of suicide.

According to Dausa police, the murder charge against the doctor couple was dropped soon after Dr. Archana’s death on 29 March.

Punitive Action Taken by Administration

Following Dr. Archana’s death, Dausa Superintendent of Police (SP) Anil Kumar was removed, Lalsot Station House Officer (SHO) Ankesh Kumar was suspended, while Deputy SP (DSP) Shankar Lal was awaiting posting orders.

The death of Dr. Archana Sharma could be a case of suicide, but I would like to term it as a deliberate murder of a doctor. This is a big blow to the hearts and minds of every capable doctor in India. The Supreme Court has clearly said that a doctor cannot be declared a murderer.

Dr. Archana Sharma did not commit any crime, yet some people tried to prove that she was guilty. She was being labelled as a murderer. Her mental agony shows that she was innocent and a good human being at heart who tried her best to save her patient. The saddest part is that she had to take her own life to prove her innocence. The death of Dr. Archana Sharma is a blot on the face of our society and our system of governance. Her family must get justice. Those policemen who filed murder charge FIR against her must be charged for abetment to suicide.

Hidden Story Behind the Heinous Crime

The case is not as simple as that. A harrowing story about an “extortion racket” has surfaced. Dr. Suneet complained to the same police station on 29 March. Based on this complaint, an FIR was registered. Dr Suneet’s police complaint alleged that a man called Shiv Shanker Joshi alias Baliya Joshi, an associate of Rajya Sabha BJP MP Kirodi Lal Meena — ran an “extortion racket” in cahoots with local journalists and police officials over patient deaths under Meena’s “protection. Shiv Shanker Joshi alias Baliya Joshi the main accused in the abetment case, and reportedly, and had previously made several attempts to extort money from them.

Dr. Suneet has claimed in his complaint that the racket had a role to play in the complaint against him and his wife. On the basis of a complaint filed by Dr. Suneet in connection with his wife’s alleged suicide. So far, five people, including a former BJP MLA, have been arrested on charges of extortion and abetment of suicide in this case.

Society Must Think and Act

The only searching question faced by every honourable and prabuddh citizen is: if a patient dies during treatment, and an FIR is lodged by competent authority against the doctor under Section 302 (murder), what should one expect? 

  • Should a doctor continue treating patients or go to the courts to fight cases? For example, in Dr. Archana’s case, if the police had arrested her on the murder charge, should we expect her husband to go to court seeking bail for her and fight the case for several years to prove her innocence?
  • Or, should the doctor opt for the extreme step, as adopted by Dr. Archana, to get rid of social indignity and harassment? 

Two years ago, during the Covid crisis, the Modi government enacted a law that attacked doctors and healthcare personnel, their property, and their working premises as cognizable and non-bailable offenses. Any act of violence against doctors and healthcare personnel shall be punished with imprisonment from three months to five years and a fine from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh. If the attackers cause grievous hurt, they can be jailed from six months to seven years with penalties ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.